Nelsinho Piquet has revealed that he is 'close' to Force India regarding a potential return to the grand prix grid in F1 2010 – as it emerged that the Silverstone-based squad is similarly assessing the respective merits of Mercedes-backed duo Pedro de la Rosa and Paul di Resta.
Piquet has been absent from the paddock since he blew the whistle on the 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal that saw both Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds banned and very nearly resulted in a similar fate befalling Renault.
After deliberately crashing out of the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix last year in order to enable team-mate Fernando Alonso to triumph from a disadvantaged grid position – and subsequently going on to expose the conspiracy to governing body the FIA following his brusque dismissal by Briatore mid-2009 – a number of experts surmised that the young Brazilian had made himself 'unemployable' in F1...but it seems some teams do not necessarily concur.
What's more, it is believed that Piquet's father – three-time world champion Nelson Piquet – is willing to help bankroll his son's comeback, and whilst the 24-year-old has tried out in NASCAR trucks for Red Horse Racing and attended last weekend's Checker O' Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, he insisted that he is keeping his options open, with F1 2010 newcomers Campos Grand Prix and Manor/Virgin F1 also having expressed an interest in securing his services.
“I am close to Force India at the moment,” Piquet told Brazilian website globo.com
, translated by GMM, “but to me NASCAR is very interesting, so I don't know yet what is going to happen. I don't want to take a decision without knowing how things work here in the United States, so I came to be with the drivers and team owners.
“It is clear that the F1 cars are very much better technologically – the best in the world – but I find that if it is enjoyable, it doesn't matter if I am racing in karts. The important thing is to compete.”
Meanwhile, de la Rosa and di Resta have similarly been linked with Vijay Mallya's Force India outfit. Both men have prior experience of the Mercedes-Benz engine the team will be running, and given their involvement with McLaren and FIF1's technical tie-up with the Woking-based operation, it is not at all beyond the realms of possibility that one or both of the pair will be handed a chance.
McLaren test driver de la Rosa – whose Campos ambitions have seemingly faded due to a lack of available sponsorship in his homeland – tested for Force India last winter and has a wealth of experience under his belt, whilst DTM front-runner and long-time Mercedes protégé di Resta is tipped to get a run in the VJM02 during the special young driver test at Jerez in southern Spain early next month, following a seat fitting at the team's Northants factory earlier this week.
2009 pairing Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi are also still in the frame for race seats at the much-improved squad in 2010.